Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Wk.39- Berdych Bounces Back

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

In the Week 40 finals, Tomas Berdych and Feliciano Lopez played the role of the big servers, though Lopez serves more with incredible spin and angles. Berdych smacks the ball. And they played against the solid receivers David Ferrer and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, not as big a returner but he gets the ball back consistently, aided of course by his one-handed backhand.

As time has gone by the power of big servers has diminished. The Lavers and Beckers of this world have had become less and less effective. The big returners like Wilander, Chang, Agassi and Djokovic have slowly started to take control.

Of course, Agassi percentage-wise wasn’t as strong as Djokovic. He would pick a spot and if you went there he nailed you. But if you didn’t go there you probably won the point. But it was powerfully effective.

The reasons why servers have slowly become less potent may be to do with the fact rackets have given players more control at the expense of power. Wooden rackets have enormous power but not a lot of control which lead to shorter points. And also players are fitter and the surfaces are slower. But also players are more tactically astute and they practice returns for hours.

But it is still a classic battle. The serving coming up against the returner is offense against defence at perhaps its finest. Agassi had classic battles with Rafter, especially at Wimbledon. Sometimes you get blowouts, but sometimes they turn into five set classics. It’s the same in football. One year defence blew out offense [2014] but the next offense edged defence in the equivalent of five sets.

And so it was in the finals this week. With the servers showing off their thing against those returners. Of course, these days you have bizarre hybrids. Players like Del Potro and Nadal on clay have big serves and great returns.

Luckily next week the big boys come back so ATP BACKSPIN actually has something to discuss. But until then let’s focus on the middle range of players. Berdych is ranked five but, really, he feels like fifteen. So what happened?

QUESTION: Why can’t Ray Charles see his friends? Because he’s married!

No, not really. That question has nothing to do with tennis

Who won more hard court slams, Agassi or Sampras?

Top 32 - Paire holds 32 from Kohl at 33 and Kyrgios at 34. The Aussie rose seven places. Robredo moves up to 29, while Sock falls three to 30 but holds off Bellucci at 31 by 45 points.
Top 10 – Little change. Less than 300 points difference between Simon at ten and Cilic at 14. Gasquet is 85 points from the top ten.
Top 8 – Nadal falls to eight as Ferrer climbs thanks to his title. Ferrer is up by some 200. Is the 600 point gap betwixt him and 6th ranked Nishikori one he can bridge? Nadal up on number nine Raonic by 1000.
Top 4 - No change. Djokovic untouchable and Federer is extending his lead over Murray. Andy leads Stan by just under 3000 but the Swiss is ahead of Berdych by some 1000 points. Nishikori sits a shade under Berdych. Expect a shake up when the Masters and World Tour Finals arrive. If Federer is fully fit he could beat Djokovic to cap the year. Right now the top two look immovable.

S: Tomas Berdych def. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-3/7-6(7)
D: Erlich/Fleming d. Guccione/Sa

S: David Ferrer def. Feliciano Lopez 7-5/7-5
D: Huey/Kontinen d. Klaasen/R.Ram

Junior Davis Cup 16s (Madrid, ESP)
Canada def. Germany 2-1

...Yes it’s harsh to criticize such a consistent top player, but BACKSPIN defended him earlier in the year expecting him to turn into the player he should be. It never materialises. With the year-end BACKSPIN rankings a-coming, it's players like Berdych who make it difficult. What’s his big result this year? How many titles has he won? And he’s world number five? He doesn’t feel like it. But he has won in Shenzhen. And sometimes the key is to go to a smaller event with a weaker field and wreak havoc. Do it just like Agassi did. Get those wins and that confidence. Tomas opened against ATP BACKSPIN favourite Austin Krajicek and was too good in a 7-5 6-3 win. Austin had a great three set win over Duckworth the previous round but Berdych is in a different class. 6th seed Vesely was up next but he never threatened and soon fell away losing 6-3, 6-2. And Robredo combined with a monsoon was no match, either. The match was halted at 6-1, 3-3. But Robredo could not take advantage and would win just one more game. And in the final fourth seed Garcia-Lopez challenged but could not get past the world number five. Berdych ran out the winner 6-3, 7-6[7]. Now Berdych has the momentum and a high seed in the 500 tournament coming up. So once more he has a chance to show us what he can do. But will he?
...Ferrer seems to win so much. He has the kind of consistency Berdman wishes he had. A final every year since 2002, except 2004, and a title every year since 2006, except 2009. It’s impressive. And he has made the World tour Finals six times. And he hasn’t missed it since 2009. Throw in four titles this year and he is still relevant despite being 33. It’s incredible. He just never stops. And Ferrer took his consistency to Asia, to Kuala Lumpur. He has won titles on five different continents and on three different surfaces. His first round opponent was Stepanek, a familiar foe. Ferrer won 7-5, 6-3 and then played another big banana skin. But Kukushkin did not make Ferrer slip this time, going down 6-3, 6-4. Surprise package Benjamin (no-relation) Becker took the first set, but this is Ferrer. After losing the first set 6-3, he dominated the next and took it 6-2. And he can outlast anyone, especially at Becker’s level. So it turned out to be as he won the third 6-4. And beating Lopez [2] 7-5, 7-5 was the cherry on the perfect Madeira cake. Do cherries go on Madeira cake? You’d have to ask Ferrer.
...If Germany could get its act together the Davis Cup team could be quite formidable. Of course, the glory days are coming to an end with Haas and Kohlschreiber looking to be at the end of their respective roads. Zverev looks to be the future now. Still, it is surprising Germany hasn’t won the Davis Cup that much in recent years. Becker opened up with Groth and won handily 6-1, 7-6[6] but 6th seed Chardy would be up next. In an exciting match Becker came through 5-7, 6-1, 7-5 and the German had won two matches where he wasn’t the favourite. Next he beat 4th seed Dimitrov 6-4, 7-6[3]. The semi-finals awaited Cinderella but alas it was midnight all too soon. Becker took the first but succumbed in the end to the sheer Ferrer-ness of Ferrer and lost 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. The 34-year old has been as high as 35. He dropped 16 places to 90 as a result of making the semi-finals in Japan last year. Blame the change in schedule. For Becker that extra week before Wimbledon has come at a price.
...The thing Kyrgios has that other ATP characters like Monfils don’t is the ability to win. He can always make a run and win matches. And seeded 7th he did just that. He even beat 3rd seed Karlovic in two breaker sets. He is already a consistent top 40 player and I like his slam prospects best of all the players in the under 22 category. Still, it was nice to see him doing well again even if he was predictably unpredictable as usual.
...We have a problem. Dimitrov is 25 next year. He is no longer young. So he has a window of about 20-26 slams where he will still be relevant. And with the big four still around you can take away about 10 of those. But he has to hang around for those ten. He has to make at least one final. He has to make a handful of semi-finals. He has the fitness and ability. He has the weapons and he has the ranking protection to a certain degree. Sousa taking him to three sets isn’t acceptable and the loss to Becker was awful. He has to avoid that in the future. A straight sets loss to a mid-thirties journeyman struggling to stay in the top 100 is inexcusable. So he must use the next two years to assert himself and his game.

Five notes from the week...
1 - Berdych won his first title since Stockholm in 2014. This is the second time recently he’s had such a long drought.
2 - James Blake being attacked by New York cops was an eye opener but luckily it appears to have been sorted out.
3 - Venus Williams. What a legend, what a champion. Is Venus the most universally liked player on the ladies side? She has to be up there. A class act since 1997. And before.
4 - Can Nishikori come back this week and show us what he can do? It is in Tokyo. And for some players there is a tournament they always win no matter how poorly they may be playing.
5 - Stacey Allastar is gone. If ATP BACKSPIN has not said so already, thank you for your services to tennis.

1. Shenzhen SF - GGL d. Cilic 1-6, 7-5, 6-3
...Played in between breaks while a monsoon was happening, the Spaniard came back from the dead. Cilic has a habit of letting big leads slip. He goes out of the blocks like Adrian Peterson out of the backfield and then slows. And it cost him here with the Spaniard taking the momentum then never letting go.
2. Shenzhen - Chung d. Wu 6-1, 6-0 and Chung d. Bedene 6-2, 6-0
...This guy is 19 and he not only dismissed experienced Wu, he also dismissed 7th seed Bedene. Bedene had just routed Youzhny. He almost beat Cilic, seeded 2nd, too, but went down 7-6[6], 6-4. Those are two massive wins. Not even the big guys administer beat-downs that severe.
3. Kuala Lumpur SF - Ferrer d. Becker 3-6, 6-2, 6-4
..Ferrer avoids the upset, and sometimes simply doing that is the key. Becker had already slain a few giants and giants to be, but Ferrer always has consistency. He just never leaves home without it. And here in Malaysia we saw glimpses of the old Ferrer.
4. Kuala Lumpur SF – Lopez d. Kyrgios 7-6[2], 7-6[5]
...Big match from Lopez to get to the final. The lefty was almost out-muscled but in the end had too much finesse for Kyrgios. The spins and angles that Lopez has mastered were too much for the Aussie.

Djokovic [1] d. [5] Raonic
Tsonga [8] d. [2] Berdych
Lopez [2] d. [1] Ferrer

...After losing three straight finals in Tokyo, Raonic has opted to try and win this event instead. And I think he’s got too much for Ferrer right now. Former winner Nadal is nowhere right now. And Tsonga has the firepower to do well. And he has made the final before. But five time winner Djokovic has to be the pick.

Wawrinka [1] d. [5] Anderson
Nishikori [2] d. [4] Gasquet
Cilic [2] d. [1] Berdych

...Nishikori will always be the pick in Tokyo. In ten years’ time he will be the pick if he enters. Form is irrelevant in an event he has won twice. I trust Anderson more than Simon and Gasquet is on form. He’ll get through a tricky section safely. And Wawrinka is the top seed and recent semi-finalist. He can work past the niggle.

Dellacqua/Tomljanovic withdraw from the doubles despite a round 1 win over Stosur/Kuznetsova. A wild card in the singles, Casey went down to Ivanovic 6-4, 6-0. She was the only wild card who was not Chinese. Shvedova is back, though, and they are seeded third in China. Arruabarrena/Klepac are up first and then probably Hlavackova/Hradecka [8]. If they win those two they get [2] Mattek-Sands/Vesnina. The winners are almost certainly going to be Hingis/Mirza, the top seeds.

ANSWER: Agassi took six and Sampras seven. Agassi made ten finals and Sampras eleven. But then Agassi has the career golden Grand Slam. The one thing Sampras always wanted was the French.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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